5 Tips for How to Dress Like a Leader at Work (on a Budget)

I’m convinced there is a correlation between how we dress and success. As an entrepreneur, I know that the way I dress affects how seriously people take me, how much I can charge for my services and how confident I feel. I am perceived as a leader when I’m dressed well, and that makes me feel like a leader. You can read an article about this at The Psychology of Dressing Well. If you’re on a tight budget though, it can be tough. I’d like to offer some tips for how to dress like a leader, while sticking to your budget.

These tips come from my personal experiences. If you have some additional tips for how to dress like a leader while sticking to a tight budget, I hope you’ll leave them in the comment section below because this is good info to share.

1. When shopping, stay away from trendy clothes.

Trendy outfits are great for going out, but not for work. If you stick to the classics, you’ll be able to wear the same outfit for a few years before it starts to feel old. Trends come and go, but a classic look never goes out of style, so you can get more bang for your buck.

2. Learn which stores offer high quality clothes at discount prices. Never pay full retail.

Just knowing where to shop can save you a lot of money. It’s important to strike a balance between price and quality. Getting a new suit for cheap isn’t a good deal if it only lasts a short time because the quality is bad.

There are tons of online and offline stores that offer high quality clothes for discount prices. Take the time to find them. You’d be surprised at what you can find at consignment shops and thrift stores.

3. Stick with solid colors that you can mix and match.

Those heels with bright red and blue stripes look gorgeous, but since those shoes will only match a few outfits, they aren’t worth buying if you’re on a tight budget.

Build your starter leadership wardrobe with classic colors like white, black, navy blue and grey. You can mix those colors well to create several different outfits. Learning how to mix and match your clothes is one of the keys to learning how to dress well on a budget.

Lifehacker published an article back in 2013 called How Can I Create a Work-Friendly Wardrobe on a Budget?. I recommend clicking over and reading it for more detail on this topic. I pulled these two pictures below from that article. It illustrates how you can purchase a couple of classic pieces that can mix and match into several different looks.

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4. Use some items you already have (but in a new way).

If you are just beginning to build your starter leadership wardrobe, the first thing you’ll want to do is assess what you already have. That white linen button-down shirt you haven’t worn in a while will look all dressed up with the right accessories.

When you think about how to dress well, try to get creative with it. Plan ahead. If you’re choosing your outfit at the same time you’re rushing around in the morning, it will be tempting to get in a rut and pair the same items together over and over each week.

Think about how you can use what you already have in a new way so it feels fresh and empowering. Get rid of (donate) all the clothes that you know you’ll most likely never wear again. Now that you’ve cleared some space in your closet, you’re ready to start building your new wardrobe.

5. Determine the level of dress in your office and then dress at that level or one level above (see chart below).

As this chart (by Business Insider) explains, dressing two levels above will not make you look more like a leader. It will just make you look overdressed. So, don’t go more than one level up.

If you work in a creative industry, you can of course dress more casually. In my opinion, if you want to be perceived as a leader, it is never appropriate to wear flip-flops to work. Even if you’re wearing a smart pair of fitted blue jeans on casual Friday, don’t ruin the look with flip-flops please. If you’re not sure how to dress appropriately for your office, this tip below might be helpful.

According to Business Insider:

If you’re not sure which level is most appropriate for your work environment, the basic rule of thumb is the more you deal with a client’s money, the more traditional and conservative you should be dressed.

I hope you find that it’s fun to build your leadership wardrobe piece by piece. Hopefully now you know a little more about how to dress well on a budget. These tips force you to evaluate each purchase in a way you might not have thought about before. Have fun!

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Photo credit: Lifehacker / Business Insider / le temple du chemisier